Juntos 4-H program continues to bring success for Latino students


When Diego Aguilar-Tencle’s mom forced him to join the Juntos 4-H program in eighth grade, he described himself as an introvert who liked to stay in the background.

Now in 10th grade, Diego said the program has changed him for the better, teaching him the skills to be a leader.

“Leadership is such a big skill that they focus on in the program and something I am able to use both in school and outside of school,” he said.

Juntos (pronounced “who-n-toes”) means “together” in Spanish and works to unite community partners to provide Latino eighth through 12th grade students and their parents with knowledge, skills and resources to prevent youth from dropping out of school and to encourage families to work together to gain access to college.

Purdue Extension Jackson County Director and Statewide Juntos 4-H Coordinator Heather VonDielingen said the Juntos program currently serves 50 families in Jackson County, is established in nine other Indiana counties and continues to grow across the state.

Juntos 4-H is a yearlong program that includes regular club meetings, monthly one-on-one academic success coach sessions, a six-week family workshop engagement series, family nights and summer academy events.

Some of these activities include road trips, including a 4-H academy at Purdue University and academic conferences in Washington, D.C., which Diego said were his favorite moments.

“We got to travel to Purdue and learn more about the campus as well as sleep in the dorms for a night,” he said. “In Washington, they brought in different speakers that talked about different career paths and trades, like engineering and agriculture. Afterwards, we were able to walk around and see the monuments. It just was an awesome experience.”

Diego said he enjoys being able to travel with his peers and learn lifelong skills with people of similar backgrounds.

“Juntos has really taught me how to communicate with others and be an effective leader,” he said. “The skills I have gained from the program so far, I really try to put in the work for what I want to achieve.”

Diego said after high school, he hopes to pursue his studies in teaching, coaching or culinary arts.

According to the Juntos 2021-2022 annual report, 100% of students involved in the program believed college is important to them, 95% plan on attending and 100% of parents expect their students to attend college.

However, knowing where to start can be challenging.

According to the report, 58% of students felt underprepared to attend college, and 67% felt underprepared to be successful in college.

Besides the students needing support, data also show parents needing support, too. In the report, 52% of parents felt confident in helping their student now, and 33% felt confident in helping their student in college.

So what’s the solution?

That’s where Juntos 4-H Success Coach Edwin Flores comes into play by conducting family sessions and one-on-one meetings with students to monitor their academics, support them and coach them to achieve their academic goals.

“It is just a heartwarming experience to be a part of this community and seeing the kids pursue success and greater things in life,” Flores said.

Flores is currently working with 11th grade Juntos students as they prepare for the SAT, look into colleges and consider scholarship opportunities.

“I have seen many of these students grow up from when they first started in the program, so it’s wonderful to see them strive for greatness,” he said.

At the Juntos 4-H meeting on Nov. 6, students and their families developed an action plan to be successful, discussed the benefits of being in Juntos and celebrated new graduates of the program.

“The ultimate goal for me is to make sure these kids finish high school and can pursue something valuable,” said Iveth Vasquez, Juntos 4-H program coordinator.

Vasquez said this program is not only different from other 4-H programs, but is an exciting program that continues to grow.

Iveth’s daughter, Marcegui Vasquez, gave her testimony during the meeting and shared how the Juntos program set her up for success as a college student.

Vasquez joined 4-H when she was in fifth grade and participated until she graduated from high school. She said 4-H has helped her with leadership skills and learning how to network as she navigates her college career.

“4-H programs really set up students to see where they can go next,” she said. “It offers so many opportunities and really opens the doors for success.”

In her time through 4-H, Vasquez said she will never forget the memories she made with her peers and others around her. As she currently pursues a degree in social work at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, she keeps one lesson she learned in 4-H close to her heart on her journey.

“Don’t be shy to take a risk,” she said.

Rosalinda Ahuatzi, owner of Crave Nutrition in Seymour and The Ville Nutrition in Shelbyville, also shared her journey as a business owner.

Ahuatzi said she learned to be a business owner at a young age due to her parents’ various food trucks and restaurants growing up.

She said she gives thanks to parents who uproot their lives to go from one country to another to follow their dreams and provide for their family.

Ahuatzi finished her testimony with a few words of inspiration, telling the students to trust the process, have confidence and that they are enough for what they want out of life.

As the students finish their action plan for success, school resource officer and 4-H council member Jason Wynn said he is grateful this opportunity allows the kids to see him both as an officer and as a role model.

“I hope to guide at least one along the way, and if I do that, then I would say that’s pretty good,” she said. “It’s important that we build relationships with them as officers so they know we are here to help and also be a mentor.”

The night concluded with celebration as 21 kids walked across the stage and received a certificate for graduating from the Juntos 4-H program. With success in hand, these students are eager for the many opportunities that await them.

Get involved

Families interested in enrolling in the Juntos 4-H program can contact Heather VonDielingen with Purdue Extension Jackson County at 812-358-6101 or [email protected].

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